Great Songs on Otherwise Horrible Albums: “Please Be Patient With Me”

Perhaps only a notch higher in standing than their debut album A.M., Sky Blue Sky is probably Wilco’s worst effort. It’s the sound of a band uncomfortably and haphazardly settling into banal lyrical and musical gestures worthy of the ever-dreaded “dad rock” label.

At least that’s what the general consensus believes (I think).

Former alt-country rocker turned murderer Jeff Tweedy is clearly the focus of this album, and he’s in a melancholy sort of mood. The album, rather ironically, evokes 70’s A.M. radio fanfare a la Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and Phil Ochs. It’s a slow, meandering, and often frustrating piece of work that stubbornly refuses to take off at any point save for the ridiculous solo on “Impossible Germany”.

The standout track here is not the well-intentioned Bob Dylan tribute “What Light” with its gag-reflex inducing never-ending chorus, nor is it the YHF throwaway “You Are My Face” but rather the understated and dare I say poignant Elizabeth Cotten-riffing “Please Be Patient With Me”.

Jeff Tweedy’s greatest strength as a songwriter is his ability to relate mundane details about human relationships in a gut-wrenchingly honest way; it’s never clear what the narrator is struggling with, but I’d guess it’s some kind of mental illness that affects him in a way he can’t control or understand. It’s heartbreaking in the best possible way: